Women's accounts of abuse in their intimate relationships

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Virginia Tech

The majority of research on wife abuse and dating violence neglects women's personal experiences and focuses on the extent and nature of physical abuse. Feminist researchers, however, stress the significance of both recognizing women's voices and acknowledging all forms of abuse against women. The purpose of this study was to enhance the understanding of women's personal experiences of being in an abusive, heterosexual relationship by asking women to write narratives describing their experiences.

Nine women, between the ages of 27 and 46 years and who had left their abuser, participated in this study. The relationships had become abusive within 2 weeks to 2 years of their beginning, though most became abusive within several months and one was always abusive. All but one of the women reported receiving help in leaving the relationship.

The themes that arose from the stories are important because they indicate what these abused women deem important or relevant to their experiences. While valuable, much of past research has neglected to focus on what abused women deem significant. The five themes that emerged from their stories are abusive aspects of relationships, characteristics of the abuser, respondents' reactions to abuse, abuse as a private act, and support and advice.